School of Social and Political Science

Data, Design & the City


From open government data to urban sensors, smart home meters, and self-quantification devices, today’s cities produce an immense amount of data. This course provides students with the opportunity to harness this data by working with hands-on, participatory tools to tackle a complex socio-technical issue of modern life.

This learning-by-developing course focuses on techniques in participatory design for the generation, use and impact of data as social and scientific evidence. This course also offers students the chance to strengthen their interdisciplinary skills and employability by working with stakeholders from the public and non-profit sectors.

You will gain foundational concepts and tools for data collection, interpretation, and ethical analysis. You will then take part in a collaborative, interdisciplinary project based around a ‘wicked problem’ identified in partnership with the Council and community organisations. Teams will develop a prototype intervention, test and evaluate this with potential users, and finally present the results to the problem holder. This year’s theme will focus on upcycling and designing for the circular economy; the course will consequently give students the opportunity to take their learning out of the classroom into the city with the goal of shaping a better society.

Themes include:

  • Participatory design
  • Data ethics and data justice
  • Tracing data infrastructures
  • Sociotechnical construction of data
  • Data as shared social and scientific evidence-making
  • Learning-by-developing
  • Data visualisation and mapping

On completion of this course, you will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate discerning understanding of the cultural role that data and evidence plays in society based in reading relevant literature from Science, Technology, and Innovation Studies.
  2. Clearly show knowledge and understanding of the ethical dimensions that arise from data collection and use.
  3. Use a range of approaches for data collection (machine sourced, subjective, quantitative and qualitative surveys, public records, open data, etc) for proposing evidence-based solutions.
  4. Demonstrate understanding and awareness of various visualisation techniques and how they can form evidence useful for communicating ideas.
  5. Understand how to work alongside other students by using the basic practices of participative design, especially in an urban context, towards a group-based project.

This is a level 8 course with 20 credits

There will be 1 lecture and 1 tutorial per week in Semester 2